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February 2009 Newsletter


Quite a lot of unpleasant things seem to happen when the
temperature gets well into the 40's. From a coffee viewpoint, it
becomes almost impossible to roast with any degree of precision,
and from an electrical viewpoint frequent brownouts and blackouts
make "almost" into "absolutely". Then we can't pack the coffee we
couldn't roast because digital scales, grinders and sealing
machines don't work.

We kept going anyway, but if you find that your last-week-of-
January or first-week-of-February order wasn't exactly what you
asked for, it simply means that we were doing the best we could
with what we had available.

Which, if you think about it, is the way that most of the world
prepares coffee. I am constantly amazed at the recommendations on
USA-based coffee forums when someone asks about the best way to
get a decent brew. The answer always seems to be "spend more
money!" "Bigger machines!" "More technology!" "More power!" Given
the current state of the economy, this is more likely to drive
people back to instant coffee than to convert them to the noble
way of the perfect brew.

All it really takes is a warmed ceramic jug, some fairly coarsely
ground coffee and hot water just off the boil. Add about 10 grams
of coffee per cup to the jug, pour in the right amount of water
for that many cups, plus another half cup, stir for 30 seconds
then allow to steep for about 3 minutes. Add another half cup of
iced water to settle the grounds, wait another 30 seconds then
pour. Pouring through a fine mesh filter will help to eliminate
stray grounds.

Total cost? Just the coffee and hot water. Quality? Excellent.
Yes, high quality freshly ground coffee is necessary, and good
quality water is also essential, but you don't need to inflate
your credit card bill to achieve coffee bliss.

It's humbling to see how cultures which are so much poorer in
material terms can do such a great job when it comes to serving
coffee. The Ethiopian (and Somali and Eritrean) coffee ceremony
is another fine example. The beans are roasted in a small pan
over a charcoal fire, then ground using a mortar and pestle and
brewed in an Ibrik over the same fire. The whole process takes
about 35 minutes, and each person gets about 25ml of concentrated
coffee essence at the end of it.

The ceremony itself creates a sense of anticipation which is
richly rewarded by the arrival of the coffee. The sensory
explosion that the light roasted, heavily sweetened coffee
creates is unequalled. Best of all, the major investment in the
coffee has been time and love. There is a lot to be said for
simplicity in the coffee world.

This month's special coffee is an absolute beauty:

Brazil Azul Lavar Peaberry
$42.00/kg

Very smooth, with a silky mouthfeel and a deep toned malty
flavour.

Finally, we learned about the horrifying bushfires as I was
composing this newsletter. I have had emails from around the
world asking if we were OK, so we sent out the following reply:
"Thanks for your concern. 46.5C on Saturday (incredibly hot) with
firestorms in nearby country areas. We were in Marysville in early
January visiting friends who had a holiday house there, now
almost certainly gone. Friends themselves are OK. We live inner
city about 100m from the beach so our biggest potential problem
is only sunburn." We have already made a donation to the
appeal, and would encourage everyone to assist in any way
possible.

Alan